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Dean’s blog: Adjust our sails

Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

Last week in his Opening Session, Provost Ginsberg asked the audience a few questions that I'd like to ask each of us. As you reflect on your work and achievements during Academic Year 2022-2023, in one word, what are you most proud of? 

When you think of it, write this word down and savor the accomplishment.

As his audience reflected and contributed to the word cloud, popular sentiments emerged: growth, team, progress, students, collaboration, and flexibility showed up a lot. But then another word started to dominate the cloud. SURVIVING. There was a chuckle in the audience at first. But then the group realized, that really is what many of us have been doing.

As a college, we have had conversations about the survival mode we all adopted while in the Covid-19 pandemic. After the pivot, adjusting class and work to fit a hybrid or virtual environment, establishing vaccines, developing a new normal and going forward within it took much fortitude, creativity and energy. We also learned that to sustain it at times took everything we had. So surviving was an honest answer that reflected many of our minds. We had made it through a difficult year. 

Our college collectively survived, and then some.

We have many things to be proud of from the past year: our enrollment was strong, our research grew significantly, and we made great strides in advancement and fundraising, as well as in our efforts towards access, justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. I'd say we are well on our way from surviving to our end goal of thriving.

At the end of the discussion, Provost Ginsberg asked another question that I will also ask you...Using one word, what is the MOST important opportunity for Mason (and in our case, Mason Science) to successfully achieve in Academic year 2023-2024? 

Take a moment to reflect and write that word down as well.

The audience again responded with words like innovation, collaboration, funding, equity, inclusion, progress, accessibility, and students.

Two other sets of words in the cloud caught my attention: 'streamline resources' and 'support change.' Both basics of any organization that per my recent email, we are asking from each of you. Yet I recognize it can be so difficult to do for many reasons. We may cling to what is familiar. "This is always the way we've done it." Or perhaps, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Both true statements. Yet the times ahead are not like what we experienced in the past. And like science suggests, we must evolve our organization for a resilient, thriving future ahead.

A person who enjoys life on the water, the Provost also shared an H. Jackson Brown quote: "When you can't change the direction of the wind, adjust your sails." 

We continue towards a national enrollment cliff which will necessitate a need for open minds and creative ideas to change our course. Ginsberg encouraged us to C(ze) the moment--consider our capacity, collaboration, colleagueship, community, congeniality, and culture.  I'd add a few more of our values -- civility, creative connections, and compassionate conversations. 

As we begin this academic year. I look forward to us embodying these Cs, adjusting our sails, and coming together to focus on the priorities of the strategic plan that we've collectively set. Time to survive and thrive.